I am upside-down inside after yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. I have been a Bostonian my entire life. I was born in Boston and have lived in the Boston area my entire life. I went to college in Boston, worked in Boston, and am a big Boston sports fan. My home is hurting right now, and there is no one yet to blame.
The news has been packed with speculation on who could have done this, the horror of the injuries, and the spirit of my great hometown pulling together. This post isn’t about that, it’s about an equally terrifying piece of news I saw on my friend’s Facebook wall: The Westboro Baptist Church is planning on picketing at the funerals of the bombing victims. In their minds, these bombs were sent by God to kill people from a city that openly supports gay marriage. (If you don’t believe me, here’s your proof: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/westboro-boston-marathon_n_3091174.html)
Many Boston residents are planning a picket line of their own to physically prevent the Church from coming near the victims’ families.
Where do we draw the line? Of course there is freedom of speech, and of course their is freedom of religion, but what about respect? Are “respect” and “tolerance” too intangible to be part of the law? Can we fairly and accurately calculate something so subjective? I spent a summer working as an intern in a courthouse. I got to know how the law weighs offenses, and as of now there isn’t a lot of room for personal interpretation. Defendants are very much sentenced based on money damages, wounds inflicted, and other numbers-based factors. The closest thing we have is “harassment” and “threatening”. I grew up believing that education was the right of all people, and that even though free speech was a Constitutional right, being safe from tyranny is too.Which begs the question… Given how diverse this country has become, and is now there a place in our legal system to accommodate hatred? Is there such thing as emotional terrorism? And can we combat it without compromising free speech?